SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Terrell Owens was only looking for a laugh when he pulled a pen from his sock and autographed a football in the end zone.
When Greg Stoner noticed the brand name on that pen, the vice president and general manager of Sharpie knew he was looking at an opportunity.
Owens' stunt in Seattle last October became a defining moment for the San Francisco 49ers' controversial All-Pro receiver. Many were amused when he caught a touchdown pass, autographed the ball and presented it to his financial adviser in the front row -- but others, including many Seahawks, called it poor sportsmanship.
Oddly enough, the brouhaha also sparked one of the most serendipitous athlete-sponsor relationships in recent history between Owens and the makers of Sharpie pens.
On Tuesday in Atlanta, Owens' adopted hometown, the receiver and the pen-makers will begin a nationwide charity campaign bringing money and supplies to schools -- all thanks to Owens' choice of writing instruments.
"When this all started, I was just having some fun with the game," Owens said. "But now I have the chance to make a difference with kids in my hometown and all over the country."
This unusual partnership didn't happen immediately. Owens' stunt was the talk of offices nationwide on the Tuesday morning after it happened -- and Sharpie's Chicago headquarters were no different.
"I'm a huge football fan, and to get this type of exposure in this way was phenomenal," said Stoner, who hadn't been watching the game, but quickly heard about it. "It was all the buzz around the water cooler. It got us on every sports show, every talk show in the country, and we thought we should take advantage."
Owens hasn't signed a formal sponsorship deal with Sharpie, which also dabbles in limited sponsorship agreements with NASCAR driver Kurt Busch and several PGA golfers -- but the company certainly hasn't wasted its good fortune.
Said Stoner: "You could have never anticipated the amount of buzz that would come from this event. We certainly didn't, but I think we've turned it into something positive."